July is National Ice Cream Month, and the Fountain on Locust (3037 Locust Street, Midtown; 314-535-7800) delivers just in time to celebrate with an updated menu featuring plenty more drinks and frozen treats, plus a couple of brand new hot eats on the menu to satisfy savory needs. Gut Check met with owner Joy Christensen to see what The Fountain has in store for the summer.
Let's start out with a little bit of background. When did The Fountain on Locust open? How did you get your start? We opened on February 19th, 2008. We bought this building for our radio syndication company upstairs. I've never been in the restaurant business before, so I went to nine restaurants in St. Louis and I said, "I'm opening a place, and I don't know anything. Can I work here for free for a day?" Eight of them said yes, which was really generous.
What were some the restaurants? A few were Crown Candy Kitchen, the Royale and Cyrano's. Charlie Downs was so generous with his knowledge. He basically sat me down and told me everything. On top of that, I took some business classes at Forest Park Community College. Business was slow at first, but then we won the best restroom in America contest. It was really quite silly, but that kind of pushed us over the edge. The customers were so behind us, so they really went after the contest.
For those who have never visited The Fountain, how would you describe it to them? A sophisticated Crown Candy with alcohol. It's home of the ice cream martini with a one-of-a-kind art deco hand-painted interior. We're an old-fashioned ice cream soda fountain with alcohol and affordable scratch-made food.
How has your menu evolved over the years? My original concept was just to have ice cream. If you want to eat really good ice cream, you want to eat it from a dairy or make it at home. You don't want to eat from a place commercially because they start from a base in a bag. I wanted to eat real ice cream and real toppings. We get our ice cream from a farm in Wisconsin because they age it and it tastes the best. But I couldn't just do ice cream. People also want food! So we had a limited menu and stuff that I collected from dinner parties I had over the years. As we grew, personnel would come up with ideas. Our soups are really exceptional. Now, we wanted to showcase our bar more. We added three pages to the bar menu plus adult ice cream pairings.
How different is the new menu from the previous one? We really extended the ice cream martinis and retro cocktails. We only had 16 originally. We added some fruit infusions and fresh fruit juices, and then we added the adult pairings which is a whole new thing. And we added more food and a page of daily specials. Some new items are lasagna primavera, veggie lasagna that's awesome, the thin man, an Italian meatball sandwich, chicken salad with horseradish, buffalo chicken focaccia and editor's choice savory bread pudding.
What key factors played into selecting the items for your new menu? Did you decide on these items with your chefs? I don't really like the word "chef." We like a really good cook in the kitchen. We only have so much room on the menu, so we wanted to have the very best stuff that's delicious.
What menu items are your biggest recommendations and why? My very very favorite besides our soups that change daily are two things on the menu that are constant. Polish dill pickle soup is a signature soup. We have 47 different recipes for soup. I think it's the best soup in St. Louis. I've also always loved our mixed salad sandwich. As far as drinks, that's such a tough question because it depends on my mood. If I had to choose, the classic Mississippi mud slide is one of my favorites.
What are some of your new cocktails? Voodoo baby, candy cane martini, orange gingertini, caramel apple, raspberry lemon drop, plum crazy, vice and virtue, ugly stepsister, thin mint, chocolate covered almond, pomegranate punch, pina colada.
How are they prepared? They're blended like a shake. I came up with the idea of adding ice cream to alcohol and wasn't sure if it'd work, then found out it was originally done for "medicinal" purposes at soda fountains in the 30's! With the ice cream pairings, we take liqueurs and pour them right over our ice cream.
Are there any upcoming events, specials or promotions you'd like to mention? We have all kinds of fun things. We just won best float in the pride parade on Sunday. We also do burlesque bingo the first Thursday of every month and are working on a second event night for the third Thursday. And it's national ice cream month in July so we'll have plenty of ice cream specials!
The Fountain on Locust's summer operating hours are Tuesday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to midnight and Sundays noon to 10 p.m.
For more tasty tidbits and opportunities to win great prizes, such as cookbooks, gift certificates to local restaurants and more, subscribe to Tip of the Tongue, the Riverfront Times' weekly food newsletter. This week, we'll raffle off a $25 gift certificate to Tee's Golf Grill.